Prayer and the Great Commission

One writer has said that “more mention is specifically made of prayer in Acts than in any other book of the New Testament.”1

Considering that the main theme in the book of Acts is the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), that should be instructive to us in the church today.  The spread of the gospel and the growth of the church are necessarily related to prayer.

Prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the apostles, together with the other disciples, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers were gathered together in the upper room.  What were they doing?  Acts 1:14 tells us, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.”

So they were united in prayer, and they were constant in prayer. John Stott notes that the Greek word translated as “devoted” (proskartereo) is the same word found in Acts 2:42 where it says that the disciples “devoted themselves” to “the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  So devotion to prayer is a common theme early in the book of Acts.

Stott also notes that here “We learn . . . that God’s promises do not render prayer superfluous. On the contrary, it is only his promises which give us warrant to pray and the confidence that he will hear and answer.”2

No doubt the enormity of their Mission led them to pray. And the same should hold true for us as well.  Why do we not pray more fervently about evangelism?  Could it be that we are disregarding the Mission that the Lord has given to us?  Or is it that we somehow think that we are actually sufficient for the task?

Both of those ideas are huge mistakes. We dare not disregard or ignore our responsibility (and privilege!) of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.   And we must know that we cannot hope to even begin to fulfill the Great Commission in our own power.   If the apostles themselves were devoted to prayer together, how can we do any less? 

We must pray if we would have our witness to the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ bear fruit in the salvation of sinners.  We must pray if we want to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

And his promises to us (like His promise in the Great Commission to be with us always, even to the end of the age – Matthew 28:20), as Stott noted above, should “give us warrant to pray and the confidence that he will hear and answer.”

1Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship, p.90

2The Message of Acts, p.54


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